VA takes over veterans' medical data from DOD

VA takes over veterans' medical data from DOD

Veterans Health Administration CIO Gary A. Christopherson says the health information exchange will be deployed by summer.

The Veterans Health Administration is taking over from the Defense Department a system that lets the agencies share up-to-date veterans' medical information.

'Defense had taken the lead, but now we are taking over,' said VHA CIO Gary A. Christopherson. 'As the project matured, we realized we had a stronger interest in it in terms of how the project will work.'

The Government Computer-Based Patient Record, which is being renamed the Federal Health Information Exchange, gives clinicians at 174 Veterans Affairs sites nationwide access to comprehensive DOD medical records for all active-duty members and retirees.

Need to share

The project was prompted by criticism following the Gulf War that DOD and Veterans Affairs systems could not share information.

The system saves clinicians time and money by giving them access to medical records on their PCs instead of having to wait for DOD to ship it by postal mail.

Last year, the system came under criticism from the General Accounting Office, which said VA, DOD and the Indian Health Service, which also is participating in the project, have not designated a lead agency.

GAO said the departments missed the October 2000 target date for testing and deploying the system. Another criticism was that cost estimates for the system rose from $270 million in 1999 to $360 million in 2000.

False alarm

But Christopherson downplayed the budget issue.

'There were never really cost overruns,' he said. 'What they [GAO] saw was a creeping potential budget in there. We never actually spent that money.'

The departments awarded a $3.6 million contract to Northrop Grumman Information Technology of Herndon, Va., to develop and maintain the system from Nov. 1, 2001, to Oct. 31, 2002.

The system has $13.1 million in funding for fiscal 2002.

It has been tested in Anchorage, Alaska; El Paso, Texas; Seattle and Washington and will be deployed nationwide by summer, Christopherson said.

The system links DOD's Composite Health Care System I and VA's patient care facilities.

Personnel at VA centers can access medical records stored at 104 DOD sites via CHCS I.

Get more data

If a VA clinician is working with a patient who has a record with DOD, the patient's computerized medical records will include a note that more data is stored at a DOD site. The clinician can access that record through the Federal Health Information Exchange system.

'For the first time, a clinician will be able to see real-time DOD data,' Christopherson said.
The exchange system operates on a Compaq Alpha server running Microsoft Windows NT and stores about 3 million records on Oracle8i databases.

DOD uses VSU-5000 virtual private network hardware from Avaya Inc. of Basking Ridge, N.J., within its firewall and PowerChannel software from Informatica Corp. of Redwood City, Calif., to transmit data to VA.

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